Amazon is putting the squeeze on publishers like Hachette Publishing, who won’t bend to their will, and customers are caught in the middle. If you want to buy books by Nicholas Sparks, Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, and any other author published by Hachette’s various labels, including Little, Brown and Company, Hyperion, and Grand Central Publishing, you may want to consider going to your neighborhood bookstore, and not Amazon.
And not just for all of the other reasons that we know so well – like supporting bricks and morter, and not the online retail hegemony, but because Amazon is artificially surpressing sales of Hachette books in order to force the publisher to give them a larger percentage from the sale of digital ebook versions of Hachette and other books.
Among other tactics, Amazon has both raised prices on Hachette (i.e. Hachette labels such as Little, Brown and Company; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Hyperion; and Grand Central Publishing) books, and is delaying the shipment of Hachette books to customers – quoting a shipping time of “2 to 3 weeks”, even for Prime.
And last week Amazon made it impossible for customers to pre-order any soon-to-be released Hachette books.
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Said Dennis Johnson of publisher Melville House, “How is this not extortion? You know, the thing that is illegal when the Mafia does it?”
Amazon’s actions are affecting business in Europe as well as the U.S.. Delays of shipments to Germany, for example, were directly attributable to Amazon’s tantrum.
“Amazon confirmed to us that these delays are directly related to the ongoing negotiations over conditions in the electronic book market,” confirmed Christian Schumacher-Gebler, CEO at German publisher Bonnier.
Sophie Cottrell, a VP with Hachette, said “We are determined to protect the value of our authors’ books and our own work in editing, distributing and marketing them. We hope this difficult situation will not last a long time but we are sparing no effort and exploring all options.”
But it seems that, at least at the moment, Amazon has the publishing houses over a barrel.
The press doesn’t seem to consider this newsworthy, but there is a war going on between Amazon and book publishers. This war involves money of course, and though I have an opinion, I’m not here to comment on what might be a fair and reasonable settlement.
There are other significant issues people might want to consider. Currently, Amazon is making it difficult to order many books from Little, Brown and Grand Central, which affects readers of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Sparks, Michael Connelly, me, and hundreds of others whose living depends on book sales. What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers. It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.
More important—much more important—is the evolution/revolution that’s occurring now in publishing. Small bookstores are being shuttered, book chains are going out of business, libraries are suffering enormous budget cuts, and every publisher—and the people who work at these publishing houses—is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. Ultimately, inevitably, the quality of American literature will suffer.
If the world of books is going to change to ebooks, so be it. But I think it’s essential that someone steps up and takes responsibility for the future of American literature and the part it plays in our culture. Right now, bookstores, libraries, authors, and books themselves are caught in the cross fire of an economic war. If this is the new American way, then maybe it has to be changed—by law, if necessary—immediately, if not sooner.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Want to let Amazon know how you feel? You can use their contact system to register a complaint with Amazon.
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